What’s the Difference Between Mobile, Wearables and a Luggage Tag When It Comes to Security?

Imagine the scenario of traveling in an airplane, bus, train or just visiting your local coffee shop. Would you have your name, address, phone number and other personal information on show for passersby, strangers and unsavory opportunists to see? The answer is probably no. So why would you allow valuable information to leak out via mobile devices or wearable technology?

When considering a successful Internet of Things (IoT) and wearables business security strategy, there are principles from mobile and endpoint security that could be applied, not in the least because mobile and other endpoints still remain the main gateways for wearables to interact with the wider IT environment. Fortifying endpoints should be where an organization’s security program starts.

Mobile Devices and Wearables Abound

The security risks, attack surfaces and points of exposure are far wider than just the mobile device, social business tool or mobile application. Digitization is progressing rapidly and will soon become part of our everyday lives in the form of wearables, smart homes, connected cars and medical devices. Your digital life requires more secure authentication and stronger security to prevent these threats from taking hold.

IoT and wearables security can be enhanced through mobile security principles. It is not just about securing the devices; you need to enforce access management policies. The principles and lessons learned from mobilephobia could be applied to the IoT and wearable tech.

There are many challenges with IoT and wearable security, and more recently, there have been examples of malware loaded onto fitness trackers. This doesn’t mean you can’t have a comprehensive security posture, but you first must understand that IoT and wearables don’t operate in isolation.

Is Your Security Built-In?

Security needs to be built in and maybe even assessed from a systems security perspective. Security can’t be wholly burdened on just the individual or on just the enterprise. The transient nature of personnel and careers means that people float between organizations, roles and countries, so your solution must be flexible enough to adapt to those changes.

This doesn’t relinquish the responsibility of the individual, though. One the biggest mobile security vulnerabilities is still human beings, according to Computing. Identity and mobility must be linked to provide secure and convenient access so that it is adopted and used to address human shortcomings such as weak passwords.

End-to-End Security

Security risks should be assessed end-to-end from both a technology and human perspective. Just as if you were traveling through the airport you would expect personnel to be trained in and adhere to the principles of security, we must adopt the same approach in the enterprise. This can exist at any level of the organization, from the check-in desk and baggage handlers to plane maintenance and food preparation.

Additionally, the expectation is that the tools and systems taking you on your journey are well-maintained and secure. In the airport example, that would include the self-service passport scanner, ticket-issuing machines, boarding pass scanners or any of the back-end systems and data centers holding your information.

Security should be built in and leveraged from the device-level upward, all the way through to the back-end systems and data stores. The built-in security then needs to be, in most cases, enhanced using additional solutions. It could be improved by creating, distributing and enforcing security policies on mobile devices. For example, implement a security policy that requires both fingerprint and passcode entry to authorize device use.

Ultimately, the level of protection and security required across the mobile and social business space for any enterprise will vary depending on the outcomes of risk assessments and contrasted to the business drivers and commercial benefits.

Flexibility to Securely Deploy Homegrown and Third-Party Solutions

When considering mobile application security, it is unreasonable to expect enterprises to only use mobile applications developed in-house or commissioned for exclusive use by that organization. Organizations should be aware of the risks associated with public apps and leverage secure containerization and app wrapping when needed.

Enterprises that do have a mobile application development initiative should build in security from the ground up, analyzing source code and leveraging software development kits to secure those apps.

Don’t Ignore the Human Factor

Security solutions and tools can’t be harnessed in isolation. Human nature and behavior must be acknowledged as a weak point. Increasing employees’ security IQ is something we can control and do in combination with deploying security solutions.

The Bigger Picture

With regards to the wider systems (e.g., PCs, laptops, servers in data centers and networks) interacting with mobile devices and wearables, it is assumed that those have also had risk assessments completed. They need to have appropriate measures with regard to endpoint protection or network security, as well as vulnerability and threat detection or even cloud security.

It’s just as important to keep endpoints safe and data secure before, during and after an attack as it is to have secure mobile devices, mobile applications and the associated wearable technologies.

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James Murphy

WW Solution Architect, IBM

James is Offering Manager for IBM Watson IoT Platform with a particular focus on security and risk management for IoT.